606th ACS takes control of the skies over Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jake Carter
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When pilots fly over the massive Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas during  Red Flag exercises, they always have to be in contact with one another to make key decisions which will determine who will be the day's victors and losers.

Teamwork is the key to success when air combat flying squadrons train in harmony with space and cyberspace units from all around the world to participate in U.S. Air Force's Red Flag exercises.

For the 606th Air Control Squadron, which operates out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, they are the commanders of the sky. From ground equipment to radios and sensors, they have a big role in executing the mission wherever they may be.

The 606th ACS is a self-contained mobile combat unit with Airmen covering more than 21 career field specialties who operate and maintain over $170 million worth of equipment.
The unit provides daily command and control to the 52d Fighter Wing's two flying squadrons in addition to the occasional control of Airborne Early Warning Force Command's E-3A from Geilenkirchen North Atlantic Treaty Organization Air Base, Germany and visiting aircraft from around the United States Air Force Europe Theater.

During Red Flag 16-1, the 606th ACS training objective is to control the skies over the NTTR.

"The 606th ACS, call sign Galley, provides tactical command and control," said Lt. Col. Aaron Gibney, 606th ACS commander. "In other words, we use our sensors and radios to find, communicate and integrate. We also help solve problems, bring order, and make speedy decisions. We accomplish this by allocating airspace, finding targets, communicating the air picture, directing shooters, and integrating capabilities across multi-domains."

With Red Flag recently integrating all three domains into one exercise, most of the 606th ACS Airmen are first time participants.

"Red Flag 16-1 is comprised of joint and coalition players and one of our main objectives during this exercise is to obtain a better understanding of how to integrate with our partners, especially at the highest tactical level," Gibney said.

For the 606th operators, Gibney wanted to expose them to Red Flag to prepare them for situations and scenarios on a larger scale.

"The 606th Air Control Squadron is at Red Flag to provide world-class tactical command and control in support of all exercise participants. Red Flag offers the unique opportunity to expose our operators to situations and scenarios on a larger scale than can be replicated from our home station," Gibney said.  "We have over 30 operators across six crew positions to include two intelligence Airmen.  The majority of our operators are attending Red Flag for their very first time."

While participating in Red Flag, they will be using the same command and control system that they would use if they were to deploy.

"(This exercise) is very similar to real world operations and expectations for our operators," said Maj. Jason Zemler, 606th ACS director of operations.  "Our operators have the unique opportunity at Red Flag to execute on a system that is the same C2 system they will deploy or execute on during our next deployment."

When units come to participate in a Red Flag exercise, they can expect to walk away with the best training possible that will ready them for a deployment when the time arises.

"While here, Galley operators experience many different pressures that they are not usually exposed to," Zemler said. "The stressors associated with detailed mission planning and execution based on realistic threat systems and scenarios provides a learning opportunity that our operators cannot typically receive in any other environment. When you apply those stressors with time and weapons constraints, and repetition over a three-week period, both the stress and learning is phenomenal."